Are you writing fast enough?

I'm learning to write faster. With blogging I’m already fairly quick, though my recent writing voice recalibration has slowed me down a bit (more on this in a future installment).

But in terms of screenwriting, I’m learning to be faster and looser, to let go a little more, and to refrain from perfecting until the polish draft.

And being a fast writer is a boon in the screenwriting industry, it seems. I have a few sought-after writer friends who are known, in part, for their speed.

So it’s a good thing, right? To be fast?

Pressure's on

When we write quickly, there's another kind of fast that's implied as well.

It’s the idea that we should be cranking out multiple scripts each year (or books, for my novelist friends). That if we’re not, we’re slackers. (I read recently that screenwriting agents don’t even want to talk to you if you aren’t writing at least three new spec scripts a year, in addition to any paid writing assignments you might be working on. I also have novelist friends putting out multiple books per year.)

It starts to feel as though the counting police are breathing down your neck to see if you’ve done enough. Today, this week, this year. Enough words, stories, scripts, books, etc.

More power to the writers who want to and can write that much, but what about the rest of us with little kids and/or who are old enough to know that pulling all nighters, racing to meet deadlines, killing ourselves with 50, 60, or 70 hour workweeks is ridiculous, short-sighted, and terrible for our health and relationships? Or even just want to make sure we're actually enjoying LIVING along with writing?

Sure. We might want to write a lot. To be prolific. But we have to be mindful about what works for our LIVES as well as our careers. And our lives are individual, with specific realities, so there’s no point in comparing ourselves to others. After all, when comparing, someone always loses. That’s not a fun place to live from. (I honestly doubt that was the plan, when our souls said “YES!” to writing.)

Thoughts about quantity versus quality

I’m of two minds about this quantity thing, of course.

(That’s how you know it’s me!)

On the one hand, writing more stories means more practice, which means more experience and more knowledge under one’s belt as a writer, which also means greater facility with writing as a whole. That seems like a good thing to me. I learn more and deepen my skills with every project I tackle, to be sure. And as my natural pace picks up with greater experience (and my kids get older), I'm sure it will become even easier to write more, more quickly.

It also seems to be the standard recommendation these days — to write as much as possible — and indeed, my personal goal has been to build a library of scripts I can take to market all at once. I’m just choosing not to kill myself over it, especially with little kids whose childhoods I don't want to miss.

On the other side of the coin, taking your time to write one truly solid story may be the ticket to unlocking your storytelling gifts. It’s what I like about what Corey Mandell recommends: getting one script “pitch perfect authentic” so you deeply understand what you’re doing and why so you can carry that forward into your future projects. The argument goes that there’s no point in moving on to project after project if you’re just going to keep making the same mistakes. This is why I chose to spend the last couple of years refining my first script rather than moving on to new projects (though I have now just completed a rough draft of a new project and have taken on a writing assignment).

The real questions to ask

No matter what other people recommend, say, do, or think about how much we “should” be writing, we have to be true to ourselves and set the goals we actually want to achieve, not the goals we are told we "should" strive for.

The real way to measure our pace is by setting goals that work for us, are attainable, and are in resonance with the lives we want to have. Then we can see how well our pace and goals are matching up.

So the real questions to ask are:  Are you writing fast enough for YOU? Are you meeting the goals you are setting for yourself, from your heart? Are you writing at a pace that feels sustainable and healthy? One that’s good for you, the project, and the planet?

The real answers lie there.

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for the article, Jenna! I needed to hear it…and for the record, I don’t care how long it took you to write it…I’m just glad you did!

  2. Carollyne says:

    Bravo! Excellent article. Stick with your own priorities and do not compete with people who have no children or put them on the back burner. They do grow up so much faster than you can imagine. I never believed it until it happened to me, now they live in various directions, thousands of miles away and we see each other once a year! Enjoy those children now, Jenna! Loved the wisdom you shared.

  3. Wonderful post, Jenna, and so much to think about. I do want to write faster, but I also so believe in Cory Mandel’s point about writing one piece (whether screenplay, novel, or even a short story or essay) as perfectly as possible, taking the time to learn the craft well while doing it. That’s what I feel drawn to doing now, and your post felt very validating of my choice. Thank you!
    Mary recently posted..Conjoint Twins: Fear and ResistanceMy Profile

    • Yes, I love that about what Corey says too. He’s very clever about how he talks about the difference between perfectionism and “pitch perfect authentic” too, which I love. I’m so glad my post is validating for your choice right now. Thanks for commenting! :)

  4. Good stuff here, Jenna! I totally agree that we need to set goals that feel right to our own hearts. If the pace feels “off” to us on the journey, the destination is going to feel “off” as well! I know that when I got into burnout with my writing years ago, in the end it didn’t matter that I had produced lots of pages — I didn’t have the health (physical or emotional) to appreciate them. Thanks for this reminder. :)
    Jill Winski recently posted..Understanding the message of fear + new coaching programs!My Profile

    • Such a great point — if we are burned out NOTHING we have created will hold value or meaning for us. And why not enjoy the process along the way, right? Thanks, Jill!! xo

  5. roy valenzuela says:

    I can’t type/ speed is a moot point….. so sad for me.

    Good stuff Jenna

    Roy v.

    • Thanks, Roy!

      Typing is not the only way to write quickly, I think. :)

      What about taking a touch typing class? I learned when I was in 8th great but I would love to go back and get even faster. There must be fun online games or other ways to learn nowadays?

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